Eskom asks coal mines to help avert crisis

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BR ESKOM 4177 Independent Newspapers Chief executive Brian Dames says Eskom must invest in its coal-handling capacity. Photo: Simphiwe Mbokazi

Johannesburg - Eskom had asked all coal mines to hop aboard and help the utility secure coal stocks as the wet weather looked set to continue possibly until next week, chief executive Brian Dames said yesterday.

At a state of the system briefing at the SA Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Sacci), Dames admitted that the system was very tight and “will remain tight up to the end of summer and throughout winter, until a substantial part of the build programme delivers capacity”.

However, he could not resist pointing out that there had been only one day of load shedding in the past six years.

The outgoing chief executive, who leaves Eskom at the end of this month, could also not restrain himself from gloating that in the next five or so years, the conversation would be about excess capacity as all of the utility’s new power generation capacity would be onstream.

“We are not out of the woods yet, the rains continue, there is a lot of stuff we are dealing with, the system remains tight and vulnerable to any changes as we go into winter,” he said.

Conspicuous by his absence at the briefing was Public Enterprises Minister Malusi Gigaba, who had been touted as part of the panel that would brief Sacci on the state of the system and the way forward for Eskom, whose credibility was damaged by last Thursday’s load shedding.

Dames said Sacci had been asked to mobilise and help the utility to stockpile deep-level coal as opposed to open-cast product because the former was in better condition for power generation.

He said Eskom needed to make “massive” investments in its coal-handling capacity.

Explaining the events leading to load shedding last week, he said during the shift change-over at BHP Billiton’s Kutala colliery on Thursday, Eskom’s Kendal power station received fine and wet coal from the open-cast mine with low delivery of dry coal from the underground mine. The shortfall was supplemented with fine and wet coal from the stockpile, which made coal handling on conveying plant difficult, causing blockages and slipping on incline conveyor belts at Kendal.

The stage three load shedding resulted in a 20 percent reduction in demand, enabling Eskom’s national control to balance the system.

Dames was non-committal on whether Eskom could challenge the procedure to procure power from independent power producers save to point out that the power utility had been sidelined by new regulation.

The Department of Energy was now the procurer, he said. “We can’t as Eskom buy power or build power for anybody. We can offset our costs but our main role is to ensure that the system is sustainable.”



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